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What’s in a name? (NaNoWriMo – Day 25)

30 Days NaNoWriMo Meme – Day 25 – What are the names of at least two of your main characters?  How did you choose their names?

Sinéad O’Flanagan

I knew from the beginning Sinéad’s culture and Irish identity would play a big part in her arc and in the trilogy at large, so I wanted her name to be recognizably Irish. That’s why I chose a Gaelic name, same reason why I chose the Gaelic spelling – Sinéad – as opposed to the British spelling – Sinead.

Michael Red Willow (Cansasa)

cornus_stolonifera_farrow_ppaf_landscape_2___bn_1I decided from a very early stage I would use Michael and Blood’s Anglo names as well as their Lakota names, but while choosing their Anglo names wasn’t all that difficult, the Lakota names were a completely different matter.

I have no knowledge of the Lakota language (though at a certain point in my research I discovered the Native Languages site, and they are very nice and helpful. I’m really grateful for their help), so I figured my best choice was researching people who really have a Lakota name and see whether one could be good for my character. I found this man’s site, his Lakota name was Cansasa (pronounced Chan-Sha-Sha). I liked the sound, I like the meaning (Red Willow, that’s how he translated it) and so I went with it.

It was only a lot later that I discovered the true meaning of the name. Cansasa is actually the red willow bark and is used to make tobacco. There are many different types of tobacco used by Native people, the cansasa is the base of the kinnikinnick, the sacred tobacco used in ceremonies.

That got me thinking. I knew Cansasa received this name as an adult, after losing his entire family, so I started thinking there should be a reason why someone (in this case, it was a healer) gave him such name. In the end, it was the characteristics of the tobacco that gave me the answer.

The cansasa is sacred, but it’s also very bitter. In fact, it’s so bitter it would be impossible to smoke and this is why it gets mixed with other aromatic herbs and tobaccos so to make it usable. Uselful. And this was the answer: the bitter nature, the need to share and mix. That’s the essence of Cansasa as a character and even a part of his arc.


Banner - Ghost Trhough the Cracks by Sarah Zama - A historical fantasy novella

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